Univ. of Miami to Lead Team on Grant for Drought, Flood Prediction

NOAA, NASA, NSF, DOE among the funders of this critical collaboration to help mitigate effects of extreme climate on S. Florida

Ben Kirtman

MIAMI — Each year, the National Hurricane Center estimates that tropical storm-related flood damage costs billions of dollars. In 2011, it was estimated at $8.4 billion. In 2005, one of the most active Atlantic Hurricane seasons in history, which generated Hurricane Katrina, that number topped $51 billion. So, to have a tool that can help forecast the potential for flooding rise means better preparation, and potentially, less damage and costs.

A multi-model seasonal climate prediction system has shown it can improve NOAA’s operational forecasts when it comes to predicting the possibility of severe floods or droughts, especially in South Florida. Based on phase 1 of this multi-institution research project, NOAA, NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Department of Energy awarded a two-year grant of $1.9M to a team led by University of Miami (UM) Professor and Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science Associate Dean of Research Ben Kirtman. He will spearhead the next phase of the effort, which includes nine other principal investigators from government laboratories, universities and non-profit organizations. This new effort will expand on the group’s work, establishing a comprehensive multi-model prediction available in real-time to all sectors of society.

“We started phase 1 of the project in February 2011, integrating climate data from each of our partner entities, and became ‘real-time’ in August 2011,” Kirtman said. “Preliminary results show that the new multi-model ensemble really improves the predictions over the southeastern United States, particularly Florida.”

The project incorporates information from UM’s Rosenstiel School processed through the University’s Center for Computational Science; NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory; NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center’ NOAA’s Environmental Modeling Center; NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory; NSF’s National Center for Atmospheric Research; the Center for Ocean Land Atmosphere Studies; NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center; the International Center for Climate and Society; and Princeton University.

The data will be factored into NOAA’s operational forecasts, which will have specific significance for the seasonal outlook for tropical storms and hurricanes. Already, results from the project are being shared with the South Florida Water Management Department with the intent of improving its decision systems for fresh water management on seasonal time scales.

“Our goal is to be able to quantify the predictability of seasonal variations in rainfall and surface temperature over the globe,” Kirtman said. “And from the work we’ve done thus far, we’re optimistic and excited about the prospects of meeting that goal.”

About the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School
The University of Miami is the largest private research institution in the southeastern United States. The University’s mission is to provide quality education, attract and retain outstanding students, support the faculty and their research, and build an endowment for University initiatives. Founded in the 1940’s, the Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science has grown into one of the world’s premier marine and atmospheric research institutions. Offering dynamic interdisciplinary academics, the Rosenstiel School is dedicated to helping communities to better understand the planet, participating in the establishment of environmental policies, and aiding in the improvement of society and quality of life. For more information, please visit

dr. ben kirtman •  modeling •  climate •  grant •  forecast •